Thomas Pringle TD

Donegal TD Deputy Pringle challenges Government over its failure to regulate insurance industry

Deputy Thomas Pringle addressed the Dáil last night on the Perjury and Related Offences Bill 2018, which aims to define perjury for the first time in Irish law and treat it as a specific criminal offence. Speaking in the Chamber, Deputy Pringle stated that “this bill has been hailed by the Government as a way of combating personal injury fraud and consequently bringing down soaring insurance premiums. This is completely disingenuous. As we saw recently at the Finance Committee, large insurance firms are either exaggerating the amount of fraudulent personal injury claims they receive to hike up premiums, or they are grossly underreporting them to the Gardaí.”

“FBD, Axa, Allianz and AIG are all on record estimating about 1 in 5 personal injury claims to be fraudulent, giving the impression that one fifth of claimants are fraudsters. However, digging deeper, AIG flagged 18% of personal injury claims as suspicious but only reported 4 cases – less than 1% – to the Gardaí. If it is a case of failing to report suspicions of fraud, insurance companies could be breaking the law. Either way, they are not telling the whole truth.”

“Insurance premiums are out of control and the Government is allowing the industry to clean up. Between 2016 and 2017, insurance providers in Ireland made a combined profit of over 1300%. Of this, the companies made a profit of €124.8million on motor insurance. The consumer is paying dearly.”

“I welcome the European Commission’s launch in May 2019 of a formal antitrust investigation into whether Insurance Ireland’s data pooling system is restricting competition and effectively operating a cartel. It will be very interesting to hear the outcome of this case.”

Challenging Government inaction, Deputy Pringle called for meaningful change, for example through a state-owned insurance provider. “New Zealand established the Accident Compensation Commission in 1974 which deals with all work and non-work related injuries. Operating on a no-fault basis, the system is funded through general taxation and an employer levy. It is affordable, easy to use and claims are processed relatively quickly.”

In response to calls from the Irish SME Association to clamp down on so-called fraudulent workplace accident claims, Deputy Pringle drew attention to the fact that “many of these incidents involve life-changing injuries which happened as a result of negligence on the part of an employer, so rather than engaging in victim-blaming, ISME should work on raising its own members’ standards.”

“While I welcome the Perjury Bill in the hope that it will prevent people – including the Gardaí, business people and state employees – from lying under oath, I am very sceptical that it will lead to lower insurance premiums. I will continue to put pressure on the Government to properly regulate the insurance industry, or to replace it with a fairer, state-run, not-for-profit alternative,” concluded Deputy Pringle.